Copyright © 2006-2018 Boudreaux. All Rights Reserved.
I sat in the extremely uncomfortable metal chair on my side of the glass partition waiting for my ex-wife to be brought from her cell to see me. I may not have been completely happy with Peggy when we were married, but I had never dreamed in my worst nightmares that the last time I would ever see her would be like this. The following day she would be put into the electric chair. Knowing that, I was still unprepared for her appearance when she entered her side of the room.
Peggy had never been obese, but she wasn't anorexic by any means. I believe someone had once referred to her as big boned. She was always a rather masculine looking woman, but by no means ugly. She had reminded me very much of Janice when I had first met Peggy. I think that was the original connection. I was missing Janice and when I found another Amazon warrior princess, I didn't want to let her go. Unfortunately for both of us, we tried to make more out of our friendship than was there.
She now had lost so much weight that her skin just hung on her big bones. Her hair had been closely cut, but the shaving wouldn't happen until the next morning
"Cameron, you look like shit," she said bluntly. "You really loved that man, didn't you?"
"Yes, Peggy, I did," I confirmed, not audibly pointing out that in her condition, she had no room to criticize appearances. "Edan and I connected on a level that I had never dreamed possible."
"I'm happy for you, I really am," she said with a thoughtfully sad smile. "I don't mean that he's gone, of course. I'm just glad that you got the chance to experience the real love that you deserved. Perhaps someday you will again," she added.
"Not any day soon," I told her firmly. "I appreciate your happiness for me, though. Most women would probably feel awkward about their ex-husbands being gay."
"Despite the terrible way our marriage ended, I always thought of you as a friend, Cam," she said with that same thoughtfully sad smile again. "I have always wished you well, and I am glad to see that despite your grief, you are still basically happy." She paused for a minute before asking, "How's Caine?"
"He's happy as a little clam," I told her. "He's being spoiled absolutely rotten by his new grandma and grandpa and all his big brothers. He even seems to take well the idea of being a big brother."
"Tell me about your family, Cam," she asked me. "Tell me about the people my son will grow up around."
For the next little while I told her all about all my boys from Daniel down to Andy. I showed her pictures which made her laugh at me for being the stereotypical proud daddy. I couldn't deny it, and told her so. I then let her know about Grandma and Gramps, Aunt Janice, Uncle Scooter, Uncle Ray and family, etc. I knew we were getting close to the end of our visitation time so I tried to keep it informative but brief.
"Caine will always know that his mother loved him very, very much and went to the extreme to protect him," I promised her.
"Thank you," she whispered through tears. She wiped them away and looked me directly in the eye before continuing. "Cameron, I hate to put you on the spot, especially so soon after you've just been through Edan's funeral, but…." Her voice trailed away.
"You need someone to take care of your final arrangements," I finished for her. She nodded uncharacteristically shyly. "There's no need to feel uncomfortable about asking me to do that. I am your son's father, and your ex-husband. I am your legal next of kin, even if we are divorced. Besides I am honored that you thought of me to trust with this. I actually anticipated this and have spoken to the rector at our church about an addition to our family plot."
"I never deserved a man as good as you," Peggy said as she wiped more tears from her face. "God how I wish things had been different for us. Edan was a very fortunate man, and if you ever fall in love again, that man will be just as lucky."
"If you hadn't deserved a man as good as me, you wouldn't have had me for the time that you did," I told her with a barely concealed grin.
"Your self worth issues seem to have disappeared into the opposite extreme," Peggy teased. I stuck my tongue out at her. "Your maturity level remains the same, however. I wouldn't change anything about you if it were possible. Ok well, maybe I would have made you straight so that maybe we wouldn't have gotten divorced, but that's a non point."
"Time's up," a guard announced.
"One last thing, Cameron," Peggy asked as she stood up. "I know it's a lot and you can say no if it's something you can't do…"
"Yes, of course I will be here tomorrow, Peggy," I told her, sensing what she needed to say. "I won't be allowed to see you, I've already asked, but I will be nearby. You won't be alone."
"Thank you, Cameron," she said softly. "For everything."
"Thank you, Peggy," I mimicked, but seriously. "For everything."
The next day I drove back to the prison. I was ushered into a room that had a couple of rows of chairs, almost like theatre seating. The chairs all faced a wall of windows. It really did look just the way it does in the movies and on television. Just as I sat down, a couple of men in dark suits walked in and sat down. They had gold rings on their fingers and chains around their necks. I nearly laughed at how stereotypical they looked.
The warden of the prison came into the room then and approached me. He introduced himself as he took a seat near me. The curtains on the other side of the windows in front of us pealed back and I could see who I assumed was my ex-wife strapped into the deadly seat. Her face was obscured by the bandages over her eyes, so she was pretty much unrecognizable. She was asked if she had anything she wished to say to the people watching.
"Cameron, are you there?" she asked.
"I'm here, Peggy," I assured her. "I told you I would be here."
"Thank you for doing this," she said quietly. "Let Caine know that his mother loved him very much, but don't tell him what I did. I don't want him to know that his mother was a… That I did the things I did."
"I will tell him one thing you did," I told her. "I will be sure that our son knows that his mother loved him enough to give up her own life to save him from harm. That she was the most beautiful woman I ever knew, and that I will go to my own grave someday grateful that I knew her and had a child with her."
"Don't make me cry, Cam," Peggy said lightly. "We wouldn't want to short out the machine and deprive the other witnesses of their satisfaction." Her nervousness was obvious only to me because I knew her that well.
"Miss Lusk," one of the mystery guests in the dark suits called out.
"My name is not Dawn Lusk," Peggy said firmly. "I am Peggy Cochran. Dawn Lusk was the name I was forced to use in those horrible trashy movies."
"My apologies, Mrs. Cochran," the man continued. "A mutual acquaintance asked us to attend today so that we could reassure you that there will be no form of retaliation against anyone in your family for your actions. We have further been instructed to apologize to you for the dishonorable way that our family members conducted themselves and their businesses on our behalf."
"Let me assure that mutual acquaintance that if there ever is any form of retaliation initiated against my family, it will be considered an act of war against my house and my honor," I said firmly. "Should such an unwise event occur, there will be no place that the members of your family will hide from me. I will hunt you all from the highest mountains of heaven to the lowest pits of hell if need be, and I will know no rest until the entire family as you call it is completely eradicated from the earth."
"Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Ragland," the man informed me. "Our benefactor wishes to assure you as we did Mrs. Cochran that there will be no further contact of any kind with your family initiated by anyone in our family. As you have said yourself, a confrontation of the caliber that can be expected from you would be considered unwise by our family. In our eyes, the matter is settled and finished."
"Then you may assure your benefactor that I will abide by those arrangements as long as he does," I said to him. I turned back to the window and looked at Peggy again. "Peggy, do you really want to be buried as Peggy Cochran? I mean you were married….."
"My marriage to that idiot was never anything more than a ploy to get me into those filthy films," Peggy said sadly. "I never meant anything to him. I will not bear his name for the rest of eternity."
"He wasn't the only person you married, you know," I pointed out. "If you wish, I can make the arrangements for Peggy Ragland."
"You would allow that after everything I…. I mean I didn't expect you to do that."
"Peggy, I would have preferred knowing about Caine sooner, but I realize that you had your reasons for keeping me out of his life," I answered her. "I know that under the circumstances, you were doing the best you could to protect yourself and your family. I can never fault you for that. If you are willing, I would be honored to give the mother of my son my name one more time. I meant it when I gave it to you forever once before, and I mean it now."
"Thank you, Cameron," she whispered.
"I'm sorry, sir, but the time has come," one of the guards told me gently.
"I always did love you, Peggy, even if it wasn't the way either of us wanted," I called out.
"Take care of Caine, that's all I can ask," she responded. "I'm sorry for all that has happened to take me from my child, but I will never apologize for protecting my son."
Fortunately for Peggy, there were no complications and it was over very quickly. As the prison doctor declared her dead, the other witnesses rose as one, bowed their heads, and made the sign of the cross. They began to leave the room, but the one who had spoken to me held back.
"My mother wouldn't cross the street to give me a drink of water if I was dying of thirst," he said quietly. "Make sure her son knows how lucky he was. She deserves that."
"Yes she does," I agreed.
Peggy had requested that she be cremated, but she didn't care what happened to her ashes. I brought them home with me, and remembering her fondness for rose gardens, I scattered her remains over the rose bushes in the new private garden between the original living room of the farmhouse and the wing that had been added over the summer. It had started as just a new Master Suite, but with everything that had happened over the summer, a nursery had been added as well. Caine and Andy now shared that room when Andy was staying with me.
Slowly life began to settle into a routine. The older boys were great about helping with both of the little ones. I wasn't surprised by this of course. They had been fantastic with Andy all along, but it seemed that they enjoyed Caine even more. He was a toddler and able to play and laugh and he learned quickly.
Thanks to Brendan my son's second official word was an unrepeatable. That didn't stop little Caine from repeating it frequently of course. I had been required to attend a late meeting at the college to discuss the foundation that had been established in Edan's memory. Brendan and Derek were watching the boys at home. They had put Caine to bed, but decided to make use of the surround sound theatre system in my sitting room next to the nursery rather than go for more private viewing quarters for their perusal of a legacy of Randy's. It wasn't one of his and Edan's films, but it was a porno, complete with dialogue such as it was.
It was difficult to stay too mad at my brother however. Discovery of Caine's expanded vocabulary came the next morning at the breakfast table. Brendan walked in and sat at the table across from his jabbering nephew. Said nephew looked him directly in the eye and called out in a loud clear angelic voice, "PIG." There was a three letter word preface to that of course which had all of us stunned, Brendan most of all. Derek had the good grace to blush profusely, which of course led to my unraveling the mystery of how my innocent son had been instructed in such language. I say it was hard to stay mad at Brendan because Caine would only use the word in connection with his uncle and kept doing it for a week, much to Brendan's embarrassment and consternation.
"You've got to stop him, bro," Brendan complained to me one afternoon. "He can't call me that in public."
"He's a baby, he doesn't know he's doing anything wrong," I defended. "Besides, truth be told, I think it's hilarious that he picked you to call that."
"You would," Brendan fumed. "I'm not one, you know."
"No, I don't know, and I don't want or need to know," I said quickly. "Your relationship is your business on that level. I'm just your big brother, not Big Brother. I should thank you for one thing though. At least I know now that if the surround sound is on, the nursery can hear it too. I might have put a movie in one night and woken one or both of the little ones."
"Glad to be of help," Brendan grumbled as he left the room.
There was only one other problem in my life now. I had the big beautiful loving family I had always wanted. I was surrounded by the people I loved, and I was totally happy, right? Wrong. I was loved by my boys, and by my adopted parents, and my friends. I was still lonely though.
I laughed at myself when I realized that I was lonely at first. How could I be lonely when I had Brendan, Derek, Ephraim, Peter, Caine, and Andy in the house all the time? It was simple. I didn't have Edan in the house anymore. I found that no matter where I went in town or why, I would have to drive past the cemetery at the church. Most often I would stop. I would sit on the bench next to Edan's grave and sometimes I would talk, other times I would cry. I couldn't accept that he was gone and I couldn't be with him anymore. With a life full of love and activities, I was just going through the motions.
Grandma finally called me on it. She knew what I was doing, because she had done the same thing when her first husband died. She told me all those things I already knew, such as having to get back to life, and not ignoring all the good things I have. I had told myself every bit of it, but it did no good.
"Mom, you don't understand," I tried to say.
"What do I not understand?" she asked. "I don't understand what it's like to be a gay man? Maybe not all of it, no. The thing is, love isn't all that different from one gender to the other. You were in love with a man. I've been in love with a man. That I understand plenty. I know what it's like to be so used to having that particular body next to yours every night, even when you don't have sex, that you start hating your bed. You can sleep better on the sofa than in your own bed because he's not in it anymore. You see things in town and you're first thought is whether he'll let you get it, and then you remember he's not around so you get it. You take it home and hate it and think if he'd been around you wouldn't have wasted that money, or even worse you love it which makes you hate it all the more because he isn't there to tell you he's sorry for trying to stop you from buying it. You start wondering if you're crazy for thinking like that."
"You realize you're not crazy when your mother tells you she's been through it," I told her with a smile as I wiped a tear from my eye. We hugged each other tightly. "Thanks Mom."
"Don't thank me," she said as she held my face in her hands. "Just figure out what it is that will bring you back to life. For me, it turned out to be little Ephraim. That boy needed love and attention of the right kind, and I had plenty to give. The thing is I was a bit older than you at the time. I had just been through the change of life anyway. You aren't old enough to give up on love. Someone else is out there for you."
"I don't want anyone else," I protested. "I want him. I love him. It's not fair!" I broke down and wept perhaps for the first time really. There had been tears at the funeral and the memorial service, but that was sadness. This was loss. This was anger. This was frustration. This was needed.
I cried myself to sleep on her sofa that afternoon. I hadn't been sleeping well since the boys had come back home. Besides the feeding schedule for Andy, there was the fact that when the older boys came home, Scooter had stopped staying over. We never had touched each other in any way that was inappropriate, but the physical closeness of another person had been enough for me to get to sleep. That had ended when his sleepovers stopped. I had to have been asleep for a few hours when I awoke to several voices in the kitchen.
"Is he all right?"
"He's fine, sweetie, but he needs the rest."
"I'm worried about him."
"We all are, buddy. We all are."
"Should we be doing more around the house to help out?"
"We do all the chores he tells us to."
"I meant should we do more, you dork."
"I'm not a dork."
"Boys, keep it down. Let him rest."
"This is something we can't fix with chores, guys. He has to fix this himself."
"When did you get to be the smart one?"
"Always was, you were just too snotty to know it."
"Hey, Dork and Snotty!" I called out to Derek and Ephraim. "Come give your old man a hug for waking him up from a much needed nap."
"We're sorry, Dad," Ephraim was saying as he walked into the room.
"Sorry," Derek added.
"Not to worry, guys," I told them. "I mean that too. Don't worry about me. I'll be fine as long as I've got you guys to take care of and look after."
"I will move out someday you know," Derek said nervously.
"Maybe so, but I will be your Dad until the day I die," I told him with a squeeze. "I will always be Brendan's big brother and Dad to you two, and your little brothers."
"You're more than just that, though," Derek responded. "You're a great guy with a big heart, and lots to live for."
"You talk like I'm suicidal," I said as I looked at him.
"Well, aren't you in a way?" he returned. "There's lots of way to end your own life, and not all of them are sudden and violent. You can stop taking care of yourself and give up on life."
"I haven't given up on life guys," I promised them. "I just got a little carried away by missing your Pop. I didn't get much time to grieve while I was fighting to get you boys back. I'm better now though. I don't want you guys worrying about me. I worry about you, not the other way around."
"Worrying about family always goes both ways," Reynold said as he walked in. "You worry about Sarah and me don't you?" I nodded. "We worry about you, as well. That's the way it works in a family, even a family like ours."
"Everything will work out fine, you'll see," Mom said, joining us all in the living room. "Now you boys get in here and have some supper before it gets cold."
"Yes ma'am," we all agreed.
I was the last one to get to the dining room and as I walked in, I looked around. I saw my brother and his lover, my first foster son. Next to them was my first adopted son sitting beside the woman who had come to mean as much to me as if she had been my birth mother. Her husband stood beside her, but looked at me with the love, support and pride I had always wanted to see in a father's eyes. Between him and the empty chair waiting for me was a tiny blond angel who lit up whenever I was near him, my blood son. Who was I kidding? Every boy at that table was a son to me in my heart, even the one I called brother. My heart was full enough. Who could ask for more? I said a quick and silent prayer of thanks to the ancestors for my family as I sat at the table with them. It was good to be home again.
Well, it's been a bumpy ride, but this is the final chapter of Finding My Way Home Book 2: Heart and Home. I have really enjoyed getting to know these characters and love them very much, but I'm not sure there will be a Book 3. I will need more ideas for the story than I have right now before I attempt a whole installment more. I hope that you've all appreciated my efforts with this and ask that you check out my other stories as well.
Thanks for reading,